By Jonathan Weber
Ocean Township — Two-thirds of the 96 senior apartments in Poplar Village off Roosevelt Avenue in Oakhurst have been empty since Hurricane Irene ripped through Monmouth County in 2011.
As you first enter the complex on Skinner Drive, you see cars and activity and all looks normal, then you make a right hand turn around the corner and enter a ghost town. The gazebo at the end of the street sits there neglected, the shuffleboard courts have lost most of their paint, grass is overgrown. The homes sit devoid of inhabitants and in a state of disrepair.Early in April, if all goes according to plan, the bulldozers from Mazza Demolition and Recycling of Tinton Falls will begin the arduous task of returning the land to initial state before the construction of Poplar Village in 1970.
Mazza received the contract for the demolition after the town rescinded a contract in 2014 to Abhzeen Design, for what was called deficiencies in their submission.
More than a half dozen times, the affordable housing development has seen the wrath of Poplar Brook overflow its banks and inundate the apartments. The entire village sits in a flood plain.
But thanks to two deed restricted multi-million-dollar grants from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to the Township of Ocean, most of Poplar Village will never again see housing along the brook. The municipality received almost $8 million from the agency to acquire the 64 properties.
The original plan called for the new units to be built on higher ground on Skinner Drive, but instead it was decided to replace the shortage of senior affordable housing in Ocean with a new development that is going up behind the Post Office off West Park Avenue, near Route 35.
Upon completion, Heritage Village will offer 93 one- and two-bedroom units to income-limited residents over 55 years of age.
People displaced by Hurricane Sandy will get first crack at the rentals. The new building will supplement the already existing Heritage Village at Ocean on Stacey Drive.